Flat White

Triple J’s Australia Day problem

28 November 2017

5:57 PM

28 November 2017

5:57 PM

Someone else has recently conducted a non-binding plebiscite, which produced a 60 per cent result that divided a nation – well, in this case, the tiny part of the nation that actually cares about the result:

Triple J has held its music countdown on Australia Day since 1998 although it’s not always been held on January 26.

It announced yesterday that it has decided to schedule the Hottest 100 for the fourth weekend of January, which falls on January 27 next year.

The decision comes after Triple J polled its listeners and found 60 per cent of them supported changing the date of the countdown.

In recent years there has been controversy over the celebration of Australia Day, which marks the arrival of the First Fleet and is often referred to as “Invasion Day” by Indigenous Australians.

In justifying its decision, Triple J acknowledged the day had become problematic and the countdown was being drawn into debate about whether Australia Day should be changed.

“We all agreed that the Hottest 100 shouldn’t be part of a debate about the day it’s on,” a statement said. “The only debate should be about the songs.”

Disclosure: I don’t listen to JJJ. It’s yet another way the federal government wastes my money that I get nothing out if, though it’s far from the worst. That the state has to run – or at least pay for – a radio station directed at the youth market is an absurd and an anachronism. JJJ is a popular station that could operate very well on a commercial basis. The old canard that private ownership and the advertising revenue would make JJJ lose its “independence” and ignore its hipster demographic is a legacy of the olden days when the world of business was indeed the domain of conservative stuffed suits. After the left’s successful march through the institutions most of the private sector is now as woke as an average JJJ presenter and a listener. That the editorial or the musical direction of the station would be any different if owned by, say, Fairfax, is nowadays a laughable proposition.

Disclosure number 2: I don’t give a stuff either way about the Hottest 100. It’s as dreary in its own way as the “commercial” Top 40. Again, times have moved on, and there is no such thing anymore as “independent” or “indie” music. It’s simply music that the more hip Millennials choose to listen to.

So, all in all, I don’t particularly care if JJJ chooses to count down 100 very average songs on Australia Day or some other day.

What worries me is the essential xenophobia behind the decision.

Australia Day, after all, commemorates the first arrival to Australia of immigrants on a boat. These people might not technically have been refugees (for one, the United Nations and its conventions did not yet exist), but they truly were the wretched of the Earth, to borrow from Franz Fannon. They were the victims of cruelty and persecutions by the government of the day; some fell foul of an insane criminal “justice” system where the theft of a handkerchief or a loaf of bread was considered a capital offence, others were the Irish who fell foul of the British overlords.

Australia’s first boat people were either the poor who found themselves the victims of the nascent British capitalism or the freedom fighters who found themselves the victims of the ascent British imperialism. The fact that they were forced to leave their home and that in most cases death awaited them should they try to come back, made them, on the second thought, pretty close to being refugees. In the spirit of multiculturalism, JJJ should be embracing, not denigrating, the anniversary of their arrival and celebrate the contribution they made to the diversity of our nation.

I finish by borrowing from a great young Australian, Yassmin Abdel-Maghied, currently in a reverse exile in Great Britain: Australia Day, lest we forget: Nauru, Manus, Botany Bay.

P.S. My personal vote for the Hottest 100 goes to Khalid’s “Young, dumb and broke”, a perfect Millennial anthem if there ever was one.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk where this piece also appears.

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